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Chesed

Chesed

Psalm 118 (Morning)

Psalm 145 (Evening)

Hosea 13:4-14

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Matthew 14:1-12

Psalm 118 (NRSV:)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;

the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.

With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?

The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.

All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!

They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;

in the name of the Lord I cut them off!

They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns;

in the name of the Lord I cut them off!

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.

The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;

the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.

The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God, and he has given us light.

Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Every place you see “steadfast love” in this psalm, think chesed. Unfortunately, it’s a word that isn’t quite done justice in English. However, English isn’t the only language that falls short in creating a parallel to chesed. When the Greeks tried to carry it over in the New Testament, the best they could do was elios (mercy or pity, the root of the word literally meaning “to pour out oil.”) When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, he chose misericordia (literally, “miserable heart,” implying a heart that yearns.)

We loosely translate chesed as “loving kindness,” but from what little I understand about Hebrew, it’s really a word that is composed of equal parts of love, fidelity, and hope. At the risk of sounding like I’m about to rickroll someone, chesed is an eternally hopeful form of love, used in terms of the covenant between God and the Hebrew people.

Perhaps that’s part of the problem. We are more likely to believe we can be rickrolled rather than be in relationship with a God who is eternally hopeful about us both as individuals and in community. Our experience that those we love, even those we love deeply, have given up on us or let us down, and left us feeling just as “had” as we do when we find we’ve accidentally clicked on a link that leads us to the infamous Rick Astley video. Not to mention we have emotionally rickrolled those closest to us–and if we can’t trust ourselves, how can we even begin to trust others?

It’s human nature for us to always expect the other shoe to drop, to fret that all our hopes will be for naught, or that we will be left deserted and crying.

God really is “never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down”–but instead love each of us with a steadfast love that endures forever.

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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Maria L. Evans

I like that, “fidelity with teeth!” (And I, too, have trouble with the word “Chesed.” I always wonder if I ought to be collecting a sputum sample when I say it.

EH Culver

My favorite Hebrew word. A happy coincidence is that it’s difficult to say it without showing one’s teeth, which is how I picture it: fidelity with teeth.

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